It seems like other than Sam Bradford and Marcus Mariota, no one else is in the running for the starting quarterback position for the Eagles next year. It seems a little silly that everyone is considering a guy that’s likely not even going to be drafted by them, but because of that Oregon connection, there’s still a very real chance Chip Kelly lands the former Duck.
But I was thinking about this recently: would either of them be able to come in next year and win a playoff game? It’s something that has eluded Kelly in the past two seasons and likely a big reason why he has turned his roster on its head. He wants to get his guys so that they’ll have the best chance to win a playoff game under his system. He’s 0-1 in the postseason so far, but after a huge change in the roster, it’s hard to tell how much better, if at all, this team has gotten. Let’s take a look whether either guy has a good chance of winning a playoff game for the Eagles in 2015:
Bradford is the front-runner and obvious choice to start at quarterback for the Eagles next year, but it doesn’t seem like many people believe he is around to stay in Philly. I’m still on the fence with that, but let’s just assume he stays and is the starting quarterback the entire season. Is he capable of leading this team to a playoff win?
First off, as everyone knows, he is coming off multiple ACL tears that have significantly derailed his career. The former No. 1 overall pick was stuck on a terrible Rams team for his entire career until now. He certainly has more weapons now in Philly than he did in St. Louis at any point, but I would argue that it’s the weakest WR group for the team in a while. If your argument for Bradford’s struggles in St. Louis was the lack of talent around him on offense, then you have to be fair and say he may have a similar problem in Philadelphia. His leading WR in his three full years as a starter was Danny Amendola, Brandon Lloyd and Chris Givens, respectively, from 2010-2012. None of those leading receivers surpassed 700 yards in a year. With Riley Cooper as one of the top receivers on the Eagles, I’m not sure Bradford’s better decision-making (which is apparently one of the reasons why they traded Nick Foles for him) will have that much of an impact.
That’s why losing Jeremy Maclin was a huge loss in my opinion. I have faith that the current Eagles WR group plus one rookie will be fine and do the job, but they’re not going to be tearing it up. Running the ball will still be a huge part of the offense, and the success there depends largely on the health of a pair of injury-prone running backs in DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews. Bradford himself is not going to be running all over the place and is probably just as lacking in the mobility category as Foles.
I fully believe that Bradford will be better off in Philly than he would ever be in St. Louis. If Chip Kelly can make Mark Sanchez look like a half-decent quarterback, he can definitely do that with Bradford. But Sanchez was nowhere near a playoff-caliber QB. I don’t think Bradford will be either. It’s been too long since he’s played consistently and it’ll be his first time in this system. I’m not saying he doesn’t have the potential to be a solid QB for this team in the future, but as for winning a playoff game for them next year? If Foles couldn’t do it with Maclin, DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy, Bradford isn’t going to do it in 2015 either.
Now, let’s assume some trade scenario where the Eagles trade some picks, Bradford and maybe some other player(s) in order to trade up for Mariota. He obviously becomes the starting quarterback and would be likely to start from Day 1, assuming that they wouldn’t put Sanchez in at the beginning (which would seem counterproductive if they think Mariota is a franchise QB right now). It’s so hard to accurately know if a quarterback is going to be a franchise guy. They only come around once or twice per draft. Is Mariota in that category? That’s the issue here.
I think there are many teams that could draft Mariota and it would immediately ruin his career. There are often talented QBs that end up on terrible teams and have zero chance of doing anything, and it’s not entirely their fault. If Mariota comes in and is expected to start in Week 1 though, that’s dangerous. It’s very rare to have a guy that’s that pro ready and can immediately start and be successful. Even the best franchise quarterbacks often struggled at the beginning in some way. Like with Bradford, I think he has potential to be a solid or better quarterback in the future for the Eagles, but I have a hard time believing that Mariota could win a playoff game for this team next year (or any team for that matter). I’m not saying he’s not talented enough, he’s just not quite ready for that.
So for both of these guys, the main factor here is that neither guy has played a down for the Eagles (and both have a chance to remain that way depending on how draft day goes). As history has shown us, it’s very hard for any quarterback to come to a new team and immediately take a team to the postseason, much less win an actual playoff game.
But here’s another thing: it doesn’t really matter in the long-run if they’re here to stay. This reformation of the roster by Kelly is his way of putting the team on the road to the Super Bowl, but it doesn’t mean they’re going to achieve that in the first season. It takes time. It takes patience. If either of these guys is the quarterback in 2015, I’m sure they will be a competitive team. But will they win a playoff game after only one year on the team? I doubt it. That doesn’t count as a failure though. It’s the first step towards a bigger success.